MILEAGE claims have shot up after Thames Valley Police gave staff a 40 per cent rise to 65p-a-mile.
Since April 2012, most officers and staff at the force have been eligible to claim 65p per mile if they use their own car for police business.
While the number of miles which police officers and staff have claimed reduced in the year up to March 31, 2013, the money paid out by the force has gone up by more than £300,000 since the 65p rate was introduced – from £1,250,165 to £1,589,963.
The increase and the cost to the taxpayer emerged following new Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld having to pay back money over his own mileage claims.
Mr Stansfeld had claimed expenses from an office four miles from his West Berkshire home to the police headquarters in Kidlington.
Mr Stansfeld – who is restricted to 45p a mile following the audit of his expense claims – defended the 65p rate.
He said: “The HMRC rate has probably not reflected the increased costs of running a car.
“As long as their car is being used for business which is absolutely necessary, then I think it is fair.”
But Eleanor McGrath, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Ordinary motorists who are facing the pinch will be shocked that Thames Valley Police staff are getting such a generous deal for their mileage claims.”
As part of public funding cuts, the force has to cut £56.3m between 2011 and 2015, some 12 per cent of its budget.
Earlier this year, Thames Valley Police announced it would be closing Woodstock police station in favour of a “more efficient” building.
Town mayor Julian Cooper said: “It sounds to me that if they are paying in excess of the HMRC mileage rate, then that is a saving they could make within their budget.”
Abingdon-based cabbie Stuart Thomas said taxi drivers would receive about 45p a mile for their work.
He said: “It seems high and it is a bit unjustifiable if it is above the HMRC rate.”
Force spokesman James Williams said the changes followed a national review of police pay and conditions.
He added it “re-established the link between the mileage rates for police forces and local authorities, although the changes to the mileage rates increased the costs to the force a number of the other changes did produce significant savings.”
Thames Valley Police has said that 222 members of staff who use their car more often and have an “established annual mileage” of 5,000 miles – such as local policing area commanders – are only eligible for a lower rate of 23p.
But the rest of the force’s employees – a total of 8,561 people – can claim the higher rate.